SDLP Assembly Member Justin McNulty MLA has warned that there are just weeks to save jobs in Ulster GAA and the IFA as the political deadlock at Stormont continues. Mr McNulty was speaking after meeting with representatives of the GAA on Wednesday morning.
Mr McNulty said, “This situation is very serious and deeply worrying. I, together with a delegation from Ulster GAA, have already met with the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Education to seek a resolution to the funding for the Curriculum Sports Programme. This Programme supports the provision of twenty-four sports coaches in local primary schools for the GAA alone, and a parallel programme is delivered through the IFA.
“These coaches are invaluable, they support the normal physical education activity in our primary schools and forty thousand young people have benefited from their work. During our meeting with the Permanent Secretary, Eugene Young from Ulster GAA made a very compelling case in support of the programme being more than just developing the skills of Gaelic games in our schools; it’s about promoting physical activity, healthy lifestyles and working together as a team. The Programme also provides a pathway for sports graduates to develop personally and professionally. There is an immense positive community development aspect of the coaches’ work with the time spent in schools encouraging children to become involved with their clubs. School leaders are telling me the loss of these coaches would be devastating to our young people.
“I have been stunned by the bluntness of the Permanent Secretary’s message. Derek Baker, whilst recognising the tremendous positive impact of the Programme, made it clear that he will be left with no alternative other than ‘to slash and burn’ in order to make ends meet within the Department. The clock is ticking, and there is real pressure on front line services in Education. School leaders have been warning about this and yet the political brinkmanship continues.
“The Permanent Secretary made it abundantly clear, he has no intention of continuing the funding for these posts. He said a Minister must be in place to make this happen. This will be a terrible blow to those who are employed as coaches, to our schools and our sporting communities. We need to see an end to the political brinkmanship. Parties are playing very dangerous games with people’s lives and it isn’t just this programme. I hope all parties will recognise the importance of getting elected representatives back and in charge again.”
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